Background to recent attempts to stamp out Christianity in Indonesia from Paul Stenhouse, PhD:
THE person speaking had lived through it all. He was from the Moluccas – the Spice Islands of legend – and had been there most of his adult life. He was a Catholic and spoke from experience of people and events known to him at first hand. The tale he told of friends and communities betrayed, and innocents tortured and murdered without qualm or mercy, was heart-rending. All the more so because it need never have happened; and because it reflected badly on those who were obliged to prevent it: the Indonesian government and the International Community, especially the UN and its International Court of Justice.
It also exposed an unpalatable truth: that evil, cruelty and plain stupidity lie just beneath the surface of our seemingly humdrum lives, waiting to be summoned like the ring-wraiths and orcs in Tolkien’s classic metaphor of the human struggle of good against evil. Without compassionate and humane solidarity with those who suffer and are oppressed, our world becomes an uninhabitable jungle. There, as the pagan Roman playwright Plautus warned us, “˜homo homini lupus,” man preys on his fellow men like a wolf, and fear and hopelessness dominate where once was love.
During 1997 and 1998 more than 500 Catholic and Protestant churches were burnt down throughout Indonesia. The figure is conservative, as, according to some estimates, more than 350 churches were burned down in the first months of 1998 alone. The Christians were weaponless and politically powerless. They were a minority in a Muslim country. They made no effective response.
This church-burning had been mainly restricted to Java and Sumatra including Aceh. Since 1968 more than 1,000 Indonesian churches had been burned down or demolished. The problem had not yet touched the Moluccas — mainly because Christians comprise 50 % of the population and relations between Muslims and their Christian neighbours were good.
By January 1999 all this had changed. When Christians in Kupang — the capital of West Timor — finally retaliated by burning down two mosques this act was regarded by Muslims as an affront by the ‘Christian dogs,’ – the infidels – and in January 1999 several people were killed in Dobu, in the Aru Islands.
Not long afterwards, on January 19, 1999, the killing started in Ambon, capital of the Moluccas.
A Christian driver of a minibus refused to give into extortion when a young Muslim demanded money; a fight started and people took sides and it quickly spread to the whole of the island. Muslims came from Hitulama and butchered many people — about twenty in the village of Benteng Kareng including one or more pregnant women – because they had heard that the mosque in Ambon was surrounded. The Christians then heard that the Silo Protestant Church had been burnt and destroyed. Tensions mounted.
The Catholics in Ambon were mainly immigrants from nearby islands and from other parts of Indonesia. The Ambonese were Protestants from Dutch colonial times, and Muslims. So the Catholics tended to stay out of the conflict – not regarding it as ‘their fight’. This all changed when the Laskar Jihad arrived in May 2000. The Mujahidun in their distinctive white robes and caps, and brandishing machetes and guns, did not distinguish between Catholics and Protestants.
The Catholics and the Chinese subsequently suffered terrible material losses, but fewer of them were killed than the Protestant Ambonese because they fled back to their islands since they had no weapons with which to defend themselves, and they had fewer family estates to defend than their Protestant neighbours.
These latter on the other hand had weapons, and because they were locals, had nowhere to go. Ambon was their home, and they had been there longer than many of the Muslims who had taken part in early large-scale migration from Bugis, Buton and Makassar, or had arrived only after 1949 in this part of the Moluccas under government sponsored transmigration from Java. This partly explains the reaction of the Protestants to the violence of the Laskar Jihad and the local Muslims.
The Muslims looted and burnt the shops and homes of the Catholics and Protestants. Local Muslims also suffered damage to their homes and shops, but the military were ordered not to fire against the Muslims. Sometimes they did so. Mujahidun snipers controlled certain areas, and particularly bridges that Christians had to use, but the police never caught them.
Agence France Press [AFP] reported that east of the capital, Ambon. Muslims massacred 93 Christians on Kasui, a small island in Indonesia’s Moluccas chain, for refusing to convert to Islam.
Annals hasn’t been able to confirm this number. But reliable sources confirm that all attacks by the Mujahidun on this occasion [November 23-26, 2000] took place at about 6.00 a.m. and that an estimated 3,000 Muslim fighters were involved.
The village of Utta was attacked on November 23, resulting in the burning of a church and 4 houses. Karlomin was attacked on November 24, resulting in several residents being killed, others wounded, and a number of houses burned. On November 25, it was the turn of Wunin to be attacked. The Catholic church, a school and 100 houses were burned. The village of Tanasoa became target of an attack on November 26: several Christians were killed, a church, a school and a number of houses were burned.
270 people from these villages managed to escape to the neighbouring island of Teor. More than 700 Catholics and Protestants subsequently agreed to convert in fear of their lives.
The victims were among and estimated 3,000 refugees who fled into the jungle when Islamic mujahidun attacked four [other] villages on November 28, according to AFP.
Associated Press [AP] reported similar attacks earlier in the week [referred to above] that destroyed two Christian churches and left 54 villagers dead. The soldiers reportedly pursued the villagers and forced captives to choose between Islam and death.
Some Muslims sought to protect their Christian friends and neighbors, a Catholic priest told AP. “˜There are good Muslims who want to protect, while there are bad people who want to slaughter,” he said. The government was slow to respond to the emergency, said a witness who claimed that only one boat came to evacuate the refugees. Government officials said about 500 people were rescued and several infantry companies have been sent to the island to prevent more violence, according to AP.
In a statement to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan the Catholic bishop of the Moluccas Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC, testified,
“Only recently, reports have reached us about large-scale and ruthless Islamisation of Christians, both by brutal force and leaving them no choice. This happened in many places, including the islands of Buru and East Ceram, and most recently on the small islands of Kasui and Teor. On Kasui of the 692 Catholics, at least 473 are still alive and they have been Islamised; nothing is known about the fate of the other 219 Catholics. On Teor, with 841 Catholics, 142 have been Islamised, about 300 succeeded in fleeing to Kei Kecil island, while the remaining 400 are still on Teor. So of the 1,533 Catholics on the islands of Kasui and Teor, 615 have been forced to become Muslims, or have chosen to become Muslims rather than lose their lives. On these islands there are hundreds of Protestant Christians who have been converted to Islam in the same way. All these people urgently need to be freed and evacuated from Kasui and Teor.” 
Christina Sagat was one such Catholic woman forcibly Islamised and, along with hundreds of other Catholic and Protestant Christians, forciby circumcised in brutal and unhygienic conditions by the Muslims. Her story was printed in The Sydney Morning Herald in January 2001.
Christina was born and raised in Karlomin, a Catholic village in Kesui island referred to above, and lived with her parents and seven brothers and sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews. Catholics, Protestants and Muslims used to live peacefully before the Laskar Jihad came to the island.
After her uncle and a Catholic youth were killed, she and her family, along with hundreds of other Christians fled into the mountains On the fourth day … some of their Muslim neighbours found them and told them that they had to become Muslims, otherwise they couldn’t protect them from the Laskar Jihad.
“˜ “¦ we finally decided to follow the Muslims to their village and do whatever they told us to do in order to save our lives. We’re fully aware that refusing to do so would only get us all killed. The Muslim representatives told us to go straight to a mosque in Kampung Baru village so that when the jihad arrived they would think that we had already become Muslims. “¦ When we all entered the mosque, the habib (Islamic preacher) asked us whether we really wanted to be Muslims. I felt miserable. The habib then told us to say the Al Fatiha prayer (chanted when a person adopts Islam) three times. I did not remember any of the words at all because I did not say it. I just opened my mouth but in my heart I said my own Catholic prayers. The Muslim crowd inside and outside the mosque yelled and waved their machetes, spears. We all cried. I felt mixed up, scared. I told my mum, who sat beside me, “Why do we have to go through all of of this?… it’s coercion. I can’t do this. But what else can I do. We would only be killed if we refused it, wouldn’t we?” Meanwhile, the crowd in the mosque searched our bags, they took out the Bibles, Rosary necklaces and small statues of Mary, which were torn and broken to pieces and burnt outside the mosque. “¦ All of us, men and women, old and young, even infants and pregnant women, were circumcised.” 
Forced Islamisation on the island of Kasui to the south-east of Ceram Island started in November 2000. The Islamised Christians who, like Christina, managed to be evacuated after lengthy delays and much intimidation by the Muslims on the island, – 1,670 persons, most of them Catholic — lived on the island of Kei-Kecil or in Ambon while awaiting government action to guarantee their safety upon their repatriation to their homes in Kasui. At the time of writing I have no certain knowledge that all have managed to return to their homes without meeting opposition from their former Muslim friends who forcibly “˜converted” them to Islam. Some 80 former Catholics who were “˜converted” by force on Kasui have “˜chosen” to remain Muslims, seemingly out of intimidation. Their land and spice crops are in Muslim villages.
Forced Islamisation is not confined to the use of physical violence, or to the Moluccas.  Christians living in Muslim countries often are denied promotion unless they become Muslims. In West Java, in the Kuningan district, Christians” wells have reportedly been poisoned, their flocks have been killed, and access to their fields has been denied by Muslims in order to intimidate them into converting. In south Kalimantan, in Banjarmasin city, Shari”˜a law has been proclaimed, and all who do not fast during Ramadan — including Christians — have been arrested and jailed if found eating in a public place. In Tangerang city, west of Jakarta, there is a curfew for all women. If caught travelling alone after dark unveiled even non-Muslim women may be arrested and charged with being prostitutes. In Makassar city in south Sulawesi Muslim students randomly check ID cards and if the bearers are found to be non-Muslim, they may be taken aside and beaten. The non-Muslims of Sindh and Boluchistan in Pakistan, and the Sufi Muslims, have endured forced Islamisation, and denial of their indigenous culture and Sufi traditions since the Pakistani State came into being fifty-five years ago. 
As well as Indonesia and Pakistan, forced Islamisation in a variety of subtle and less subtle forms is the bane of non-Muslims — and even some Muslims regarded as less observant – in a number of Muslim countries, including Iraq , Kashmir , Malaysia , Cameroon , and the Sudan.
Alarming reports were received of cases in southern Sudan where those who refused to convert and to send their children to a khalwa , were killed. During his recent mission, the Special Rapporteur received testimonies, including an eyewitness account, of the summary execution of 12 civilians, men, women and children, at Lobonok on 3 May 1995, at noon. At the end of April 1995, following fighting which reportedly had lasted almost three months, government troops entered Lobonok. The local population was forced to convert to Islam. Children were dressed in white jellaba and given Arabic names. Although some adults did convert to receive food, the group mentioned above was executed because they refused to convert and to send their children to the khalwa. According to an eyewitness, Victoria Yakisuk (aged 55), Salivar Yugu (aged 45) and Redendo Wani (aged 40) were killed after trying to run away into the bush; and Loku Mario (aged 35), Gumat Mario (aged 18), Yugu Mario (aged 10), Pitia Mario (aged 7), Redendo Tombe (aged 15), Renado Keny (aged 26), Kaku Tombe (aged 55), Kaku Lege (aged 12) and a middle-aged woman whose name the witness could not give, were lined up and shot dead. Kaku Lege was reportedly raped before being killed. The eyewitness claimed that the killings were carried out by a group of 12 soldiers in uniform. 
The silence of official Islamic leaders and spokesmen in Indonesia and Australia at the inhuman treatment of the Christians — old and young, men, women, even pregnant women, and children, – in the Moluccas forcibly “˜converted” to Islam, and circumcised with old Gilette blades and at the hands of so-called “˜female priests,”  is revealing.
It throws doubt on claims that Islam is a tolerant and peaceful religion, and that Muslims understand the much quoted verse 256 of Sura 2 – “˜there is no coercion  in the religion” – to forbid the use of physical force to impose Islam on non-Muslims who fall into their power.
It may be helpful to comment on briefly on this much-quoted Sura.
Popularly it is translated “˜There is no compulsion in Islam“. But the verse reads din “˜religion,” not Islam. Also it should be noted [though this is never usually stated when the verse is used as a proof of the peacefulness of Islam] that Sura 2,256 is addressed to Muslims, not non-Muslims. It warns Muslims not to dally with “˜unbelief,” and implies that belief is easy which is what the reference to “˜no force” seems to suggest.
The following verse – usually never quoted – is the one that deserves attention. It applies to non-Muslims whom it warns in unambiguous language of the dire consequences of not embracing Islam: “˜[you] are the inmates of hell, and shall dwell there”. There is intimidation and coercion in this verse [Sura 2, 257] and perceptive Muslims would realise that if you can threaten unbelievers with hell fire if they don’t become Muslims, then a fortiori you can use physical force to make them embrace Islam.
There is an even more cogent argument against the “˜tolerance,” and lack of coercion allegedly preached by Sura 2,256: the behaviour of Muhammad.
“˜Then the Apostle [Muhammad] sent Khalid bin al-Walid “¦ to the tribe of Beni Haritha bin Ka”˜b in Najran and ordered him to wait three days before attacking them, after inviting them to embrace Islam.. If they agreed then he was to accept their submission from them; and if they refused he was to fight them. So Khalid set out and came to them and sent out riders in all directions inviting the people to Islam saying “If you accept Islam you will save your life.” They embraced Islam because of the threat. “¦.. When they came to the Apostle [Muhammad] and he saw them he asked “Who are these people who look like people from India?” and they replied, “These people are the Beni al-Haritha bin Ka”˜b. “¦ The Apostle [Muhammad] said to them: “‘Had Khalid not written to me that you had accepted Islam and not resisted, I would have tossed your heads beneath your feet”.” 
Despite denial by modern-day Islamic spokesmen, according to Ibn Hisham his biographer, Muhammad not only approved, but commanded the use of force in religion. And Islamic Law, especially the Qur’an, explicitly approves the use of such force.
Some Muslim scholars may grudgingly admit this privately when pushed, but publicly attest the opposite, claiming against all evidence to the contrary that the Qur’an opposes the use of force in spreading Islam.
Sura 2,256 is a trap for unwary non-Muslims. It cannot be taken at face value. The final blow to its credibility comes from the fact that whatever it may originally have meant, informed Muslims consider it to have been abrogated.  The abrogating verse is Sura 9:73 : ‘O Prophet, struggle with the unbelievers and hypocrites, and be thou harsh with them”.
When confronted with the indisputable fact of the abrogation Islamic apologists then try another spin by claiming that the abrogation only applies to pagans, not to Christians and Jews.
The history of Islam, and the recent actions of Muslims in Kasui and elsewhere in Indonesia and throughout the Islamic world, however, leave all thinking non-Muslims in no doubt that the abrogation of Sura 2, 256 and the continuing validity of Sura 2, 257 empower fanatics who don’t hesitate to use force to make non-Muslims embrace Islam.
Attempts to prove the opposite amount to falsifying the meaning of the Qur’an, and denying the example of the life and commands of Muhammad.
1. The New Martyrdom: A Special Report. From the Caribbean to Oceania, Anti-Christian persecution heats up. See ZENIT.org (13.01.2001) /HRWF International Secretariat (16.01.2001)
2. Christina’s Story, Lindsay Murdoch, SMH January 21, 2001
3. Hizb ut-Tahrir stresses that they are “˜non violent” while advocating the forced Islamisation of the Western World. It was reported that several of the 9/11 hijackers were connected to the group in Germany . HT was banned due to its virulent anti Semitic rhetoric. See “˜Soldiers of Allah in California,” Militant Islam Monitor.org August 1, 2004
4. Sindhi Baloch Forum Ref.: SBF/14/08/02, 14th August 02; “˜Pakistan: Madrassa Reform A Mirage” Adnkronos International, August 16, 2006.
5. Guardian, “˜A symptom of Iraq’s tragedy,” June 6, 2006.
6. “˜Acid test in the face of acid attacks,” Sandhya Jain, The Pioneer, August 13, 2001.
7. “˜Temple Demolitions Spell Creeping Islamisation,” Baradan Kuppusamy, Inter Press News Service, August 16, 2006.
8. North Province. See any Encyclopedia entry: e.g. Islam is the dominant religion in the north due to the cultural and political domination of the Fulbe. Those ethnic groups which resisted the Fulbe conquests and forced Islamisation are collectively referred to as Kirdi (“˜pagans”), though they are not culturally homogenous. Kirdi groups include the Chamba and Fali. In addition, many inhabitants of the province profess Christianity, as well, particularly Catholicism.
9. A small Islamic rural school that stresses memorization of the Qur’an and provides some instruction in the reading and writing of Arabic.
10. United Nations, Human Rights Commission, CN.4/1996/62, 20 February 1996.
11. “˜Christina’s Story,” Lindsay Murdoch, SMH January 21, 2001.
12. The Arabic word Ikrah means “˜coercion,” “˜use of force” or “˜constraint”.
13. Ibn Hisham, Biography of Muhammad, [Arabic version, Dar Ehia al-Tourath al-Arabi, Rue Dakkache Beirut Lebanon] Part 4, pages 249-250. Trans. Paul Stenhouse. Also, see “˜The Wolf Pack, What it means to live by Muhammad’s words and deeds,” by Bruce Thornton, Private Papers: A review of Robert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad,”˜ (Regnery Publishing, 2006).
14. See e.g. al-Nahas, An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, p. 80. See also Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, Beirut, 1986, p. 42. quoted: “˜Tolerance in Islam” by M. Rafiq ul-Haqq and P. Newton, http://debate.domini.org/newton/tolerance.html.